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'Aunt Peggie' Finds Answers for Parents, Students

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Aug. 3, 2004 – When it comes to getting information for parents, students and educators about different state high school test requirements, nobody does it better than "Aunt Peggie."

Click photo for screen-resolution image
"Aunt Peggie" Watson, left, chats with Sara Kruger at the Military Child Education Coalition's Assessment Resource Center exhibit during the organization's sixth annual conference, which was held in Colorado Springs, Colo. Kruger is an administrative assistant for the Association of the U.S. Army family programs in Arlington, Va. Photo by Rudi Williams

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"Aunt Peggie" is research consultant Peggie Watson, who updates the Military Child Education Coalition Assessment Resource Center Web site whenever she finds new information about state testing requirements -- which change constantly.

The center evolved out of parents' requests for help. At the high school level, when a student is moving from one state to another and going from one assessment program to another, it's extremely important to have as much information about that program as soon as possible, Watson said. That's especially true if it's going to count for graduation purposes, she added.

Watson noted that the role of assessment and accountability has intensified with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind legislation. "States have progressed to meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind," she said.

According to the state education commissions, as of July 14, 30 states are fully meeting the annual reading-test requirement and 29 states meet the annual math-test requirement, Watson said.

By 2008, Watson added, 24 states will have exit-level exams -- 21 will have standards based on end-of-course tests and three states will have minimum- competency exit exams.

"We have information for every state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools," said Watson, who calls herself "a military brat" because her father was an Army artilleryman. "We have Internet links to the major assessments, locations of standards, curriculum guides and the calendar for assessments.

"Sometimes I find samples of released tests," she said. "Some states, like Texas, have released tests you can download or take online."

There are also links to state education departments across the country. "We try to find links to English-as-a-second-language offices, which are sometimes a little difficult to find," noted Watson, who taught math for 20 years in the Kileen, Texas, Independent School District and spent 13 years as coordinator for testing and research for the district. "And we have links to the gifted- and-talented offices as well."

Watson, who started working for MCEC after retiring four years ago, noted that having this information available on the MCEC Web site makes it easier for a parent to find information on a particular state, their assessments and other areas they have questions about.

For example, Watson said, "You go into the Texas agency's assessment area and you're going to be looking at mostly the TAKS, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Under the annual TAKS program, testing will occur in grades 3 through 11. Students must pass the exit-level TAKS exams in order to receive a high school diploma. The tests cover English language arts, math, science and social studies.

"There's also information about state alternative assessment programs designed for special-needs students who are not scheduled to take the regular assessments tests," she said. "Generally, you'll find grades 3 through 8 math and language arts -- the biggies. You're also going to find information on other assessments that states have started, such as adding some social studies or science tests."

Watson said there's also information on the high school tests, including exit tests. Some states administer general-standards exit tests, while others require end-of-course tests. The most common end-of-course tests are Algebra I, U.S. History, Biology, and English I and II.

"It all depends on the state," Watson noted.

Parents and students can go on the MCEC Web site at www.MilitaryChild.org/assessment for more information. "Once you get in, click on the state you have an interest in," she said. "You'll find from 10 to 20 links for every state."

Those who need more information can search on their own by clicking on the state and going to the Department of Education, which is under state government.

"Others might want a little more guidance," Watson noted.

One day, a parent told Watson that her family was moving to Fairfax, Va., and she needed information on gifted-and-talented-student programs in that area. She'd already visited the MCEC Web site, but wanted more information.

The mother was concerned that, as with most gifted-and-talented programs, they have their own assessment process and screening, Watson said. "The middle school assessment had closed for the summer. So the mother was afraid that her child wouldn't be able to get into classes until the beginning of the new year, three months after school started."

Watson came to the rescue by finding Internet links the mother hadn't found. "That made her little bit happier because she had more background and information and a couple more phone numbers to call," she said. "That's what it's all about."

About 18 months ago, when Watson started receiving up to 10 telephone calls a week, plus a bunch of e-mail messages, she told her co-workers, "I guess I'm becoming 'Aunt Peggie.'"

"The name stuck," she said with a chuckle.

"So, in order to put a face or name with the program, I'm listed as 'Aunt Peggie,'" she noted. "If you contact Aunt Peggie, I'll try to find the answer to your questions. If I can't find the answer, I'll try to find you a contact person."

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Related Sites:
Military Child Education Coalition Assessment Resource Center

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